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Do Our First Responders Deserve some R and R?

Close your eyes and picture inside your body an entire police department and fire department that is fully staffed, ready to respond at a moment’s notice to any warning sign that something is not right with you.

The nanosecond your body senses a distress signal, it calls in the immune system, which sends in its squadron of inflammation cells, hormones and nutrients to attack the “foreign invader,” otherwise known as the injury or infection, and begin to heal the organs, tissues and cells. The first thing we notice is the pain, typically followed by immobility, swelling, redness and warmth. This is called acute inflammation. As uncomfortable as it can be, it’s actually a good thing. It’s our body’s sophisticated way of alerting us to a problem - an injury, infection or virus – so it can begin to heal properly.

But you definitely can have too much of a good thing. Studies show many Americans now have too much of this good thing called chronic inflammation. This is when our first responders are working around the clock, no break, completely exhausted and confused and mistakenly identifying healthy organs, tissues and cells as threats to the system. They are always on attack and the immune system never shuts off. This constant state of emergency can cause lasting damage to your body.

We are now discovering that chronic inflammation can be the root cause of many health problems and serious illnesses including allergies, Alzheimer's, appendicitis, arthritis, asthma, autism, auto immune diseases, bone health, brain fog, bone disorders, many cancers, cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, diabetes, digestive conditions, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, general aches and pains, joint pain and stiffness, lung disease, mood disorders, obesity, muscle loss, Parkinson's, skin irritations and rashes including eczema, psoriasis, weight gain and obesity and others. Our own first responders have gone from being life savers to causing disease and in some cases, death.

Why would this happen? Other than genetic predisposition, all signs point to the environment in which we are living: sustained emotional stress and physical stress, sedentary lifestyle, exposure to toxins and allergens, gut imbalance/Dysbiosis and dietary choices.

But we can easily turn this around if on a daily basis we commit to:

• Avoiding toxins - Consider your environment, cleaning products, and skin care products including deodorant and make up. • Exercising for at least 30 minutes • Relaxing and avoiding stress • Meditating, practicing yoga and/or praying • Sleeping for an uninterrupted seven hours, though eight or more is encouraged • Not smoking • Supplementing with probiotics like VSL • Supplementing with fish oil like Norwegian Gold (Dr. Andrew Weil recommends 2-3 grams of EPA/DHA daily supplements.) • Eating the right foods and avoiding those high in inflammatory properties.

Harvard Medical School highlights, “One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy but from the grocery store.” Focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet can reverse chronic inflammation and give your first responders some much-needed R and R.

Most Potent Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Enjoy Daily

- Fresh fruit, especially blueberries, avocados, strawberries, cherries, apples, oranges and tomatoes* (Eat three servings daily.) - Fresh vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens including cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and collard greens* (Devour six servings daily.) - Fish, especially wild Alaskan salmon, anchovies, black cod (also known as butterfish and sable fish), halibut, herring, mackerel, sardines, and trout (Enjoy three times each week.) - Whole grains like brown, black or red rice - Legumes/beans, especially mung beans - Mushrooms - Turmeric, curcumin, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and chili pepper - Extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and ghee - Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks - Seeds and nuts, seeds and nut butters and “milks,” especially quinoa, flax, hemp, walnuts and almonds. - Bone broth - 64+ ounces of purified water - Tea - good quality white, green or oolong - Bite of dark chocolate above 70% - Vitamin D - 20 minutes of sun exposure on arms and legs or in front of an S.A.D. Lamp.

*Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables. Challenge yourself to eat the rainbow each day. Make sure to gobble up something orange, yellow, red, purple, blue and especially green.

Highly Inflammatory Foods to Avoid and Their Replacements

• Sugar and artificial sweeteners in all forms (Replace with organic raw honey, 100% maple syrup, 100% stevia, cinnamon, bananas and dates.) • Dairy - except ghee. (Replace with almond milk and coconut milk.) • Gluten/refined grains (Replace with quinoa, and gluten free grains, nuts and seeds.) • Oils including safflower, sunflower, corn and cottonseed (Replace with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and ghee.) • Feed-lot raised meat (Replace with organic, grass-fed, lean meat only once or twice a week.) • Red and processed meats and sausages (Replace with organic poultry, wild-caught fish and lamb.) • Artificial food additives and MSG • Saturated fats and trans fats • Processed and fried foods (Replace with whole and fresh foods that are raw, roasted or grilled.) • Caffeine - except white, green or oolong tea. • Alcohol (If you must have a drink, make it red wine. Organic red wine is an even better choice.)

How do you know if your body is constantly in a high state of alert? Some signs are allergies, belly fat, digestive problems, frequent headaches, gum disease, mood issues and skin rashes. But you can find out before the symptoms start showing up by talking with your doctor about five different blood tests: Fasting insulin, Hemoglobin A1C (HA1C), C Reactive Protein (CRP-Hs), Serum Ferritin, and Red Blood Cell Width (RBW).

Regardless, here is a self-care challenge. Print off the list above of foods to enjoy and foods to avoid. Check them off throughout the day to help you achieve as close to 100% compliance as possible. Give this anti-inflammatory diet a try for just four weeks and notice the changes in how you feel. Other than giving your immune system a vacation, this program should provide a steady increase in energy, stronger, more-toned muscles, and a calmer, keener mind. This diet has been designed for overall well-being and a healthy immune system. Close your eyes and picture inside your body, a bunch of fire fighters and police officers at the beach playing volleyball, reading books and taking naps so that they are rested, relaxed and 100% ready for when they are truly needed to respond.

Restaurant Recommendation: True Food Kitchen, Bethesda - Founded by Dr. Andrew Weil - Healthy, anti-inflammatory driven using seasonal and nutrient-rich ingredients to create foods that are delicious. Though the restaurant has tasty animal proteins and dairy products, it also caters to vegetarians, vegans and those looking for organic food. Don’t let the “healthy” of it all scare you away. My kids, a.k.a. my taste testers, love True Food. I’m confident if MY kids love it, you will too!

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